Common experience

Ian Silverstein wonders why UK design groups are so reluctant to talk about their business. Surely they could learn from the trials and tribulations of others?

Are we too competitive? In the reasonably short period of time I have been in the design industry I have seen one particular trend that has always disappointed me.

Many years ago, when we took part in the Design Show at the Business Design Centre, it became obvious to me that walking around and talking to the other design consultancies exhibiting at the show was not acceptable industry practice. As I wandered around, with a genuinely healthy interest in the various ways design groups had decided to present their business and their work, it slowly became apparent that this was not the done thing. Most of the people manning the stands found my interest very off-putting and, sadly, they were very reserved and unwelcoming of my interest.

This started me wondering. Why are we as an industry so insular? As the founder of Creative Action Design, I find it interesting to speak to other people within our industry to share experiences, help peers through various issues and generally provide an extra source of support. Yet, over the past five years, it has become clearer and clearer to me that this is not a view shared by most of the consultancies out there.

Just last week at an awards ceremony I ended up having a very interesting conversation with an associate director of another design consultancy and it was fascinating to hear how they approach common problems and issues in their business. Surely, we all face the same or similar issues in running our consultancies, and it is my view that any communication or support from within the industry can only strengthen the industry as a whole.

I have attended a number of international new business events and have always found that, while the main aim is to build relationships and develop new business opportunities with clients, I always arrive back in the UK with new contacts from the actual design industry. Many of these have proved invaluable when we’ve been in need of support and advice on industry-specific issues.

I call this my personal network and this is made up of a number of managing directors and directors of other design consultancies. We meet regularly to share experiences and discuss the issues in each others’ business. I personally find this very useful and it helps me understand the changing marketplace that we operate in and gain a better understanding of the common issues we have to face on a regular basis. I suppose you could look at these contacts as an external advice or support service with real life experience and knowledge.

While we have a non-executive chairman, I really value the relationships with this small number of associates and we always have a lot to discuss when we meet. Maybe this industry should look within itself for support and advice rather than lining the pockets of various advisors.

I have met some great people within our industry and this is one of the reasons that continues to drive me in improving my business and working within the creative industry. We have a wealth of talent and I believe we need to share more information and resources to strengthen the whole proposition we offer. After all, won’t this only benefit consultancy owners, our staff and in the long run our clients too, by building a better and smarter industry?

Are we over-protective of our businesses?

We all face similar issues so let’s talk about them

We need to co-operate more as an industry

We ought to create networks of associates for support

We can save money on advisor bills

Ian Silverstein is the founder of Creative Action Design

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